Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Is the Veda's authority a deontic one?

Maṇḍana's, Kumārila's and Prabhākara's theories about the Veda's validity distinguish between what Western logicians call prescriptive sentences and imperatives. The former enjoin something and are valid insofar as they are modally distinct from statements of facts. The latter, on the other hand, are only valid if the impelled people actually perform them. The Veda consists in prescriptions and not in imperatives –all Mīmāṃsakas agree that the actual performance of the sacrifices prescribed has nothing to do with the Veda's validity and do not derive its validity out of the fact that everyone obeys it.
According to the insightful distinction of Joseph M. Bocheńsky (1974), the Veda's authority is, hence, deontic but only insofar as it is epistemic. It regards the sphere of what has to be done/of future events, but it derives its authority out of the fact that it is the only instrument to know about it. On the other hand, the deontic authority of, e.g., an officer on her soldiers directly consists in her being obeyed. There cannot be any deontic authority which is disregarded.

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